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Flexibility is key element in formulating new hire

Special to the Legal News

Published: December 7, 2011

With an average 3.4 percent rise in starting salaries forecast for next year, human resources professionals and companies alike are evaluating how to prioritize the elements involved in formulating the pay for talent they want to bring on board.

According to Anne Edmonds, regional vice president of Robert Half Legal in Columbus, flexibility is key for both hirer and hiree.

Companies should remain flexible in the manner in which they bring on a new hire, especially having operated leaner in the recent months of the economic recession. Likewise, Edmonds advised new hires to seriously consider a contract position that may lead to full-time employment status if a full-time job isn’t available.

“What I’m seeing is employers are getting a little bit creative,” she recently told The Daily Reporter.

Robert Half Legal’s parent company, staffing giant Robert Half International, devised the 3.4 percent increase in starting salaries for companies across the United States in its 2012 Salary Guide. The data reflects trends and specifics shared by Robert Half hiring managers.

Technology positions are projected to see the largest gains among all fields researched by the company, with an anticipated 4.5 percent increase in base compensation. Accounting and finance professionals can expect starting salaries to rise an average of 3.5 percent, research detailed.

“Businesses seek professionals who can help them enhance their technology and accounting infrastructures,” Robert Half International Chairman and CEO Max Messmer said in a prepared statement. “For many firms, the question isn’t whether to implement improvements but how quickly they can find the talent to do so.”

Gains in the salaries for creative and marketing fields were the forecast equivalent of accounting and finance at 3.5 percent. Professionals with interactive skills, such as user experience, or UX, designers, are especially sought after as firms look to improve web presence and transition many of their marketing programs online, the research indicated.

Administrative and office support salaries should grow by 3.4 percent, while salary growth in the legal field lags at an average 1.9 percent projected growth.

Lawyers with four to nine years of experience in high-growth practice areas — litigation, labor and employment, real estate, and corporate law — are seeing greater demand, the research demonstrated.

Despite the comparative slower growth forecast for salaries in the legal profession, Edmonds said the 2012 report has a very optimistic feel to it.

For starters, “it’s positive, It feels different,” she said. “In recent years, it hasn’t been positive.”

Edmonds returned to her earlier point about flexibility.

Law firms, accustomed to operating with fewer professionals are looking at what each candidate can bring to the table. Perhaps gun shy from the freezes and cuts to staffing during the recession, hiring an associate on a contract basis is highly appealing.

The young lawyer doesn’t mind it as much either, Edmonds explained.

They’re gaining experience for which they’re being compensated. “I think it’s a bit of a different generation,” she said. “I don’t think this group of new lawyers views contract employment the same way” as their predecessors.

Even when hiring full time, Edmonds said, flexibility can figure into the salary formulation.

If a firm is hiring an associate who previously worked as a paralegal, an option may be for the firm to negotiate with the potential hire about doing the work that may be associated with his previous employment in addition to the duties of the new post. The same applies if the candidate has experience in the technology field, she said.

“Having those skills would eliminate the need to have to outsource the duties associated with those skills,” Edmonds explained. “... That would help too.”

Other creative means to build a more attractive salary are bolstering the benefits package or offering a signing bonus.

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